Giles, Conlan reduce Alice Springs to a mere dot


p2167-brochureOKBy ERWIN CHLANDA
You’d think that when Chief Minister Adam Giles and Tourism Minister Matt Conlan are spending taxpayers’ money promoting the Territory tourism, then their home town, where a majority voted for them, languishing in the economic doldrums, would get a fair suck of the sausage.
You’d be wrong.
Amidst 80 photos in a glossy 48 page insert in an airline magazine circulated in Asia, Alice Springs features once: As a dot (see at right – we put the arrow in).
The mostly Asian people depicted frolicking in spots of natural beauty or munching five star meals are doing so nowhere near Alice Springs.
Amongst some 13,000 words of text, The Alice gets two mentions: As a reference point to the location of Santa Teresa (“an hour from Alice Springs”); and as a venue for the Imparja cricket cup.
And then there is a reference to the “dusty Henley-on-Todd regatta” but it doesn’t say it’s staged in Alice Springs.
Mr Giles, trademark toothy grin firmly in place, is telling the airborne reader “what Festivals NT is all about”.
No, he’s not.
He doesn’t waste a single breath on the Alice Springs Festival, nor on  Desert Mob whose artists have catapulted The Centre into the international spotlight; not the Beanie Festival; not the annual gathering of truckies at the National Transport Hall of Fame (they’re expecting 10,000 people next year); nor Wide Open Spaces or the string of rock, folk and traditional music events throughout the year nor the sensational Finke Desert Race.
Jennifer Simon, spokesperson for Tourism NT (TNT) which has been getting between $40m and $50m a year, provided the following information: “The insert was circulated in 7000 copies of the inflight magazine on all Jetstar Asia flights for the month of November.
“Tourism NT was the title sponsor and committed approximately $24,000. We received eight pages of advertising as part of the package and received 2000 run-ons for our own distribution purposes.
“We had influence over the editorial content and our objective was to highlight experiences that we know appeal to the South East Asian market and specifically promote the regional areas of Katherine, Kakadu and Litchfield, with Darwin being the gateway port being serviced by Jetstar.”
This seems to make it clear that TNT is taking the view that what Alice Springs has to offer – including as the gateway to the MacDonnell Ranges, east and west – does not “appeal to the South East Asian market” or else that TNT doesn’t know whether it does or not.
This is an interesting proposition given that the TNT office has just been moved back to Alice Springs.
Ms Simon says further: “Equal opportunity was provided to tourism business throughout the NT for advertising, including Central Australian operators and Tourism Central Australia.”
p2167-brochure-1Stuart Ord, General Manager of Tourism Central Australia (TCA), had this to say: “Our records show that a co-operative advertising opportunity was sent to our Tourism Central Australia members to be involved in the insert.
“We received no response in regards to this marketing effort and advertising cost was likely a factor.
“Our members receive numerous co-operative advertising opportunities throughout the year and they assess which ones are best suited to promote their businesses.”
Ms Simon: “Other NTG advertisers include the NT Convention Bureau, Festivals NT and the Northern Australia Development Office.”
Clearly, these government instrumentalities also pumped public money into the insert, but Ms Simon doesn’t say how much. Based on TNT’s contribution the total cost was $144,000.
Given that TNT “had influence over the editorial content,” and that the Alice Springs tourism industry is hardly flush with money right now, there would have been a great opportunity for TCA to ensure its members were getting exposure in the brochure via the government participants.
Judging by the brochure’s content, TCA clearly did not.
It would have been a remarkable first in many years for TCA to be performing its watchdog role over TNT.
Ms Simon did not reply to our question about other airline magazines the brochure is being circulated in.


  1. Good work picking up on this Alice Springs News Online, the majority of us would not have known about this publication.
    Well done for raising it.
    It’s just yet another example of the incompetence from this useless mob. As I have said in your forums before – I remember both Conlan and Giles having ALL the answers when in opposition, but LABOR was the problem.
    Then they got in, but then TERRY MILLS was the problem.
    They successfully knifed him after many, many attempts, but then DAVID TOLLNER was the problem.
    They knifed him too.
    I won’t even raise TIO, Family Children Services, PAWA, the Port or the economy.
    Meanwhile, we’re nearly 18 months out from the next election, and somehow these clowns have allowed things to actually get worse on the ground!!
    In 2016 I will be voting Labor for the first time out of absolute disgust. They are all an embarrassing disgrace.

  2. While this revelation is disappointing, it can hardly be said to be surprising.
    The NT Government, in reducing us to a spot on the road to Santa Teresa, is only reflecting the apparent mentality of our own local government, the Alice Springs Town Council.
    After years during which local art has established itself to international renown, our Town Council seems to be staffed with such mediocre Philistines that they cannot be bother to maintain the town’s own art collection. Why would Darwin give us the time of day? Given the lack of local support, they’re not going to say we are home to a world famous art movement.
    Perhaps we will be remembered in years to come as the one time venue for a dry river regatta.
    Travellers passing through on their way to Adelaide or Santa Teresa might note with wonder the MacDonnell Ranges and wonder in passing why there is no one here to enjoy the unrestricted view.

  3. The irony of this story couldn’t be more topical if it tried.
    In the bad old days of direct Commonwealth government control of the Northern Territory – specifically 1969 – the Federal government, through the Australian Tourist Commission, appointed specialist consultants from the USA to inquire on future directions of the tourism industry in Central Australia.
    The main consultants – Harris, Kerr, Forster and Associates – produced two comprehensive volumes in December that year that came to be known as the “HKF Report”.
    One volume dealt with Alice Springs and the surrounding district, the other with Ayers Rock (the latter at the special request, I understand, of the NT Reserves Board).
    Although now long forgotten, the HKF Report has clearly gone on to become the most significant event in the history of the Centre since the Second World War.
    Virtually all of the recommendations made in the two reports have subsequently been implemented – a tourist village near Uluru, sealing of the south Stuart Highway, the creation of the Lasseter Highway, sealing of roads to local scenic sites in the Macdonnell Ranges, Todd Mall, major hotels in Alice Springs – AND a three-storey height limit for the town centre!
    Only one major recommendation (to my knowledge, as I haven’t ever seen copies of the actual reports) has never been implemented. Wait for it, wait for it – the HKF Report recommended that the international airport in Darwin be relocated to Alice Springs!
    You see, in those days the Centre was by far the biggest tourist attraction in the NT. It therefore made sense that international flights should come direct to Alice Springs.
    It’s never happened although there have been numerous suggestions in subsequent decades that Alice Springs Airport should be upgraded as an international flight destination.
    Most significant of all was the glossy, full-colour and detailed document produced by the NT Government’s Department of Transport and Works in late 1988, called “Alice Springs International Airport” (I still have a copy), that urged the Federal Labor Government (then in control of the nation’s airports) to upgrade our airport to handle regularly scheduled international flights.
    Where’s the vision now with the current CLP government? It has tunnel-vision so small one can only see a dot on a page.

  4. Good work Erwin. You need to keep highlighting these outrageous examples of disproportionate spending priorities – and it’s obvious that both parties have been guilty of this in the NT in the past.

  5. Resurrect the Central Australian Tourism Association (CATA), which co-ordinated, organised such enterprises as the airlines, railways, coach companies, accommodation houses, tourist agencies, which made Central Australia a vital tourism destination success. Circles can grow – dots don’t!

  6. Indeed “an interesting proposition (Erwin) given that the TNT office has just been moved back to Alice Springs.” In fact it’s quite bizarre unless all those Alice based staff fly back home to Darwin each weekend. Just what is this mob thinking (and doing)? Yes, I assume a lot!
    Well, I can see another saving for NTG. Do we really need Tourism NT? Minister Conlan must take responsibility for this mess. The Chinese will have their own operators and managers.
    Maybe they will get it right and Chinese will appreciate our wide-open spaces outside of Darwin. Darwin would surely seem a backwater after the buzz of Shanghai. Cannot imagine Mitchell Street being of interest for Chinese tourists.

  7. Both these blokes were elected to represent central australia in parliament weren’t they?Sack em.

  8. Greg Simon , just for the record CATIA does exist, it is now known as “Tourism Central Australia” and does a great job at promoting Central Australia

  9. We actually are just a dot on the tourist map.
    Sorry Alice Springs but the days of the town being a big tourist magnet are well and truly over.
    Our future is as a service centre for the regional Aboriginal communities and hosting government health, justice and correctional staff and facilities.
    Backpackers and some grey nomads will still come but that’s about it.
    The minister is being realistic.

  10. Ditto Sean. After 34 years I am thinking the same way. In may I counted over 100 people being photographed at the welcome rock South of town. On the same trip we counted over 350 caravans between here and Coober Pedy all heading North. I wondered how many of them reached the visitors centre in the mall. I keep seeing visitors with vans getting parking infringement notices while looking for the centre and how many of them went straight past. My objection is that we are not being told. The TIO debacle is a prime example and the same is happening with the proposed gas pipeline. The decision to go via Santa Teresa could be the reason why it appears on the map. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the decision to go that way was made long ago but never revealed. Another TIO. Otherwise why would they have spent a few million on a small section of the road the other side of Alambi and more widening the road just the other side of the airport? Great shades of Rex Connor under Whitlam who wanted to build a national gas grid 50 years ago and borrow the money from an International arms dealer to do it!

  11. @ Greg Simon
    @ “Dave”
    I committed an error when I moderated Greg Simon’s comment: He referred to the Central Australian Tourism Association (CATA) and I assumed he meant the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association (CATIA). I was wrong – apologies, Greg, – and I’ve now altered your comment accordingly.
    Greg said CATA had nothing to do with CATIA.
    I rang Greg and told him I’d never heard of CATA.
    When did you come to Alice Springs, he asked.
    1974, I replied.
    We’ll, CATA operated soon after 1965.
    He later emailed me: “CATA , I think, was instituted by Reg Rechner, manager of TAA in SA , followed by Keith Castle , Alice Springs TAA manager in the late 60s , now resident in Byron Bay .
    “The Oasis Motel, Bernie Kilgariff, Wallara Ranch (Jim Cotterill) , Ross River Resort (Gill Green), Elkira Motel and others were partners.”
    Many thanks, Greg!
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor

  12. Rod, you haven’t hurt yourself after that stumble, have you? Keep off the sauce, for God’s sake!

  13. Many thanks, Rod, I’ll certainly catch up with you – I think existing copies of the HKF Report must now be very rare.
    Re comments on CATA – in fact, CATA was in operation well before 1965.
    Take a look at that old building with various shops in it on the corner of Gregory Terrace and Todd Street (opposite the Heenan Building).
    I’ve long wondered about it as it appears to be an incomplete structure – and it turns out I’m right!
    It was originally intended as a two-storey building, to be constructed in two stages. It was none other than the legendary Ly Underdown, the builder / owner / operator of the Hotel Alice Springs, who financed the construction of it.
    The ground floor was occupied by TAA (Trans Australia Airline) and CATA – it was officially opened by the Member for the Northern Territory, Jock Nelson, in April 1961.
    CATA was regarded as a local tourist bureau and was managed by Bert Palmer. (Later that same year a Bill was introduced to the NT Legislative Council to create the NT Government Tourist Bureau, which eventually opened its first office on the corner of Todd and Parsons Street in 1963 – see my story
    Bert Palmer immediately went into action in promoting the attractions of Central Australia, including writing a series of articles published in the Centralian Advocate that provide a fascinating insight into the state of the local tourism industry at the time. Later that same year CATA commenced an Alice Springs – Darwin bus service.
    Incidentally, the upper floor that never was built was intended for – yes, you’ve guessed it – offices.
    If this particular building isn’t heritage listed, it most certainly deserves to be.


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